Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=100439
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 12:29:04 AM CST
Third party and independent candidates have always faced an uphill battle to be heard by voters, but those candidates contend that the role of the Internet as a potent force in politics has helped to level the playing field in recent years.
Dave Brady, Illinois state chairman of the Libertarian Party, said that the lack of fundraising capability and limited access to traditional forms of media has stunted the growth of third parties in the past.
“Prior to ’96, I would say that the only ways a third-party candidate could run and get their message out is putting out signs and hope people see them,” Brady said.
Brady said that since Web sites and Web communications such as sending email are inexpensive, small parties can use it both for dissemination of information and for communication within an organization.
Political scientist Christopher Mooney takes both sides: He said that the Internet is a “fragmenting force” in general, but that it also unites a small community of people with similar beliefs who happen to be scattered geographically.
Pat Kelly, media coordinator for the Green Party of Illinois said that the party offices exist exclusively online.
In 2006, the Green Party achieved the status of an established party in Illinois by receiving more than 5 percent of the popular vote in the gubernatorial election.
The party retains established status this election year, but in 2010, if less than 5 percent of voters cast ballots for that party, it will lose that status. Kelly said this status has changed the dynamics of their campaign tremendously.
“We simply wouldn’t be able to run as many candidates,” he said.
In 2006, the candidate for governor, Rich Whitney, did not even have his name on the ballot until two months before the election. Now, as an established party, the timeline is very different.
The Green Party now participates in the primaries and enjoys fewer barriers to access to the ballot, so candidates and supporters are now free to focus their efforts elsewhere.
However, the Green Party still is not part of the main political dialogue in Illinois, as Thomas O’Brien, Green candidate for Cook County state’s attorney, was not invited to participate in debates between the Republican and Democratic candidates.
So the parties still have hurdles to overcome, as Mooney points out.
“I admire them,” Mooney said, “but it’s just the way that our system is set up. It’s very difficult to succeed.”